Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Penang Whirlwind Weekend



Two days after Christmas, Aravind and I travelled down to Penang for the wedding of one of my dear friends, Hamlin.

Hamlin's brother, Hamish, considers me his best friend, and this makes me feel bad, because I only manage to send Hamish cards a few times a year and I haven't visited in years.

As a backstory, Hamish used to do therapy at a centre for differently-abled youth, and when approached by a reporter and asked for his festive wish, Hamish asked, through his therapist, to have friends. This was back in 1996 or 1997, and I have been writing to him since and have visited him twice. Over the years, I became quite good friends with the family and so when I received Hamlin's wedding invite, Aravind and I immediately accepted the invitation and made arrangements for a 3-day trip up north.



Visiting my old friend Hamish at his home in Island Park, the night before Hamlin and Cathy's wedding. Really glad I got to catch up with Hamish, and just sorry I didn't have more time to spend with him. Hamish has multiple cerebral palsy and communicates by raising his eyebrows for a 'yes' and shaking his head (he has limited neck movement) for a 'no'. We understand each other perfectly well and chatted for hours. He was most interested in my zoo volunteering stories, and my elephant anecdotes made him laugh. I really should get some of my zoo volunteer photos printed and mailed to Hamish.

Aravind and I spent the whole of Saturday morning and afternoon wandering around Penang on foot, with a mix of fascination and nostalgia. Penang is my father's birthplace but I haven't been back here to visit since 2004.


Charming old colonial shophouse with Neoclassical features and plaster mouldings.


Masjid Kapitan Keling in the George Town Heritage Zone.


Yap Temple in Lebuh Armenian, George Town.


Commissioned street art made of steel rods depicting scenes in the Penang of old, by Sculpture at Work. This one is of a cheeky trishaw puller. The speech bubbles are in Penang Hokkien, the most widely spoken dialect in the state. My parents speak this to each other, but not to us, so I understand the spoken form perfectly well but don't speak it as well as I do other dialects.
"Lu ai ki to lok?" (Where are you going?)
"Um zai" (I don't know)


The famed Minion Pillar in a small alley off Armenian Street. Penang street art is really something you have to see for yourself!


Friendly ginger cat outside a shop where the Minion Pillar is. Some kind souls had put out a bowl of food and drinking water for the cat.


More cat-themed street art as part of the 101 Lost Kittens Project to raise awareness on animal homelessness issues. This is a mural painted on an alley wall.


Finally found the Ernest Zacharevic "kids on an old bicycle" 3D mural! There was a queue of tourists lining up to take photos with this mural. I made Aravind stand there and snapped his photo before he was ready, hence his look of consternation.


The giant mural of Skippy, one of the formerly stray cats at Langkawi LASSie, as part of the 101 Lost Kittens street art project to raise awareness about animal homelessness.


Yarn cats doing a balancing act on a clothes pole, as part of the 101 Lost Kittens street art project.


Some wise guy had painted a black rat on the wall just around the corner from the giant Skippy mural.


More cat-themed street art as part of the 101 Lost Kittens Project to raise awareness on animal homelessness issues. This is a mural painted on an alley wall.


The Lebuh Victoria entrance of China House, a famous local cafe/art house known for its cakes, jazz performances and social responsibility towards street animals.


Adorable animal-themed paintings in China House.


Aravind walking through the courtyard connecting the Lebuh Victoria entrance of China House with the Beach Street entrance. More cakes and desserts await!


A Christmas-themed sand sculpture in the courtyard of China House.


Glorious cakes and pastries at China House, on the Beach Street side.


China House provided us with paper and crayons so we can doodle while we wait to be served. As with Sylvia Plath, drawing calms me.


The little shop next door sells traditional sweets such as peanut brittle, preserved plums and gelatine-free, cornstarch-based gummies!



Another lovely old colonial shophouse building with Art Nouveau and Art Deco features -- the George Town Dispensary.


Absolutely LOVE the Art Deco building on the left! It is located on Beach Street. I felt like I was transported back to the 1930s upon spotting this beauty. Upon conducting some research, I found out that it is the old OCBC Bank building, and was constructed in 1938.


No sight is quite as welcome as that of smoothies, juices and iced coffee on a scorcher of an afternoon (@ Twelve Cups Café, Whiteways Arcade, George Town).


Aravind and I each made a little donation to the 4 Paws Animal Welfare Society at the Twelve Cups Café, Whiteways Arcade, George Town.


Admit it -- you sang along, too! (@ Twelve Cups Café, Whiteways Arcade, George Town)


Believe it or not -- this gorgeous, stately old Neoclassical building with its Roman pillars and nautical portholes is actually the State Islamic Affairs Dept HQ. What a pedestrian function for such a dramatically beautiful building!


The Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower (also known as the Jubilee Clock Tower) at the coastal road roundabout.


An Indian pigeon! Eating spicy mixture that someone had spilled!


The lighthouse at Fort Cornwallis.


The bunkers at Fort Cornwallis. I was fascinated by them at age 7 because I thought they were dungeons of some sort.



Sir Francis Light, still standing after all these years. How are you, old chap?



Taking the RapidPenang free shuttle bus so we didn't have to shlep all the way back to the hotel in this murderous heat, hurray!


Gurney Drive Coastal Road in the evening. We had arrived one hour early for the wedding due to everyone's grim warnings about starting off early to avoid traffic jams of apocalyptic proportions. Yes, we were dressed for a wedding but I still wanted to go out and look at the beach.


The candy buffet at Hamlin and Cathy's wedding WAS FANTASTIC! We love it! Look at all those treats from our childhood! Hamlin, you are a genius! I am glad we arrived early after all!


Silly photos at the Instamedia Photo Booth at Hamlin and Cathy's wedding, G Hotel, Gurney Drive.


We did not manage to get a photo with the ever-busy bride and groom but at least I got a photo with Hamish and Hamlin's mum! I wish I could have spent more time with her and Hamish.
 

Although the visit with Hamish felt far too brief, it was important that I return to the bachelor pad to take care of my cats (two of whom are ill) and to attend to work and volunteer commitments.

Still, Aravind and I were glad we went, and it was easily the most enjoyable wedding we have ever attended (Note to self: If you don't let your parents hijack your wedding, EVERYONE will have a good time. There is a time and place for familial obligations, but a line must be firmly drawn on Asian Parental Interference).

I wish Hamlin and Cathy every happiness together and may each day henceforth be even more blessed and filled with love than their wedding day.

4 comments:

Bookface said...

I LOVE your photos of the street art especially (and thank you for the translation of the cheeky rickshaw driver -- priceless)! You also looked most elegant in your dress for the wedding which, I notice, was fatigue green. Always mission ready! :-)

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Thank you for coming over and appreciating the photos, Bookface! The lighting is not bright enough at the wedding venue, I guess, because my dress is actually charcoal black with sparkles.

Katz Tales said...

Hey wow, love those cat murals! Am Pinning them.

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Glad you like the cat murals too, Ellen! So happy that there are street artists speaking out for homeless cats. Every cat deserves a warm, safe home and at least one human slave.